They are the perennial underdogs of UAAP. Everytime they step inside the court, winning is next to impossible. Audience expect already that their opponents will mercilessly defeat them in easy fashion. But recently, the National University Lady Bulldogs have portrayed a different persona, a different attitude. So what’s with the different attitude? The reason lies on the commitment of the National U management to revamp its sports program to be at par with the best schools in the country. With the strong support from Mr. Hans Sy of the SM Group of Companies, the National University has already seen the fruits of its revamp. It’s Men’s Basketball Team has been making a lot of noise in the Basketball Tournament with it’s 5th place showing in this year’s tournament. It’s a far cry from the usual 8th place that they usually achieve in the previous years. Winning the Father Martin’s Cup and Unigames, the National U Men’s Basketball Team will surely ring some good bells in next year’s tournament as they parade their talented recruits.
This time of the year, the UAAP will have its focus on the Women’s Volleyball Tournament. Considered by many as the glamour sport of UAAP. Women’s volleyball has already attracted a lot of fans from all walks of life. It’s has gain a massive following that news, intrigues, and gossips about player’s lives have been posted in different forums and blogs all over the net. The tournament used to be dominated by teams from University of Sto. Tomas, De la Salle University and Far Eastern University. In this season’s tournament, the biggest noise comes from the National U Lady Bulldogs. Displaying a different attitude compared to the previous years, the Lady Bulldogs have silenced the critics by displaying their physique worthy of a volleyball player. A lot of commentators and fans have noticed a huge transformation in terms of physique of players. They are lean, and fit. They hit the ball hard and possess a never say die attitude. Another significant change in the National U attitude is that their Women’s Volleyball Team is no longer a Mervin Mangui show. Mervic Mangui is the go to player of National U. Last year, the whole team relies on Mervic Mangui’s spike. It seems that all points the National U have earned comes from Mervic Mangui. This year, the team can rely on a repertoire of players who can provide support to Mangui. There’s Maricar Nepomuceno who has tremendously improve as a player. Her jumps are higher, her spikes are lethal and most of all, she has now the killer instinct. She’s one of the most reliable middle spikers in this year’s tournament. The rookie, Rialen Sante is also showing a lot of promise. She has a commanding presence in court and is not afraid to face the likes of Alarca, Soriano, Ho, and Maizo in court. Then there’s Elaine Sagun, Je Cawicaan and Mina Aganon who can contribute points at an instance. The Lady Bulldogs can also rely on the services on Jen Reyes who has tremendously improve as libero giving Melissa Gohing a run for her money.
But the secret of the Lady Bulldogs is not on its players but it is on its coach, Mr. Francis Vicente. Coach Vicente is one of the respected coaches in the country being the winningest coach of the UST High School Girls Volleyball Team. His decision to try collegiate volleyball has raised a lot of eyebrows particularly in the UST Community. But the loss of UST is National U’s gain. In a short period of time, Coach Vicente has transformed this ladies into volleyball juggernaut giving them the needed training and the psychological mindset to win their games. On a personal note, I like the way Coach Vicente treats its players. He masterfully explains the weakenesses of its players and corrects them right away. He also knows how to motivate its players without demoralizing them. It’s a far cry from the way their Coach Dante Alinsunurin treats them. It is also under his wings, that National U volleybelles have participated in the Shakey’s V-League and the University Games in order for the players to have the needed experience. Their recent concluded games against FEU and UP have shown that they no longer crack in the most critical points of the match. Their match against Ateneo have shown that they can play one on one against Ateneo’s players. If not for the controversial rotation error, the match could have been in their favor. And of course, their match against La Salle prove that they still a lot of things to learn about volleyball. But one thing is for sure, Coach Vicente is guiding the players in the right direction. It’s just a matter of time before they can pull an upset against the big guns of women’s volleyball.
Another reason why National U is creating a lot of noise in this season’s tournament is its latest prized recruits. In the early part of this year, National U has announced the recruitment of Dindin and Jaja Santiago in its volleyball program. Dindin Santiago is one of the talented rookies in Season 72 and an important member of the UST Volleyball Team. She stands 6’0 feet tall and a monster in quick and middle plays. Her sister Jaja is considered by many as the next volleyball superstar of UAAP. With a towering height of 6’4”, Jaja is above everyone else which makes her a lethal weapon in blocking and attack. A lot of volleyball fans are eagerly awaiting for her to play collegiate volleyball. The Santiago sisters transfer to National U has raised the issue of piracy of players. But nobody knows what’s the reason behind their transfer but one thing is for sure, they just maximized whatever offers are out there for talented volleyball players like them. In the coming years, National U will be a force to reckon in women’s volleyball and fans can’t wait for the Santiago sisters to fire a barrage of quick hits and blocks.
It is not only the Santiago sisters who are joining the Natioal U bandwagon, just recently Cherry May Vivas and Monique Tiangco have surprised the fans of Far Eastern University when they decided to enroll in the National University. FEU fans were shocked and surprised by the decision of these players considering that they were expected to play for the Lady Tamaraws.Some were saddened not to see Vivas this season considering that she was the last year’s tournament’s MVP. Both of them will undergo residency and they are expected to see in action together with the Santiago sisters. Imagine a team loaded with an all star cast – Nepomuceno, Santiago sisters, Vivas, Tiangco, Sante and Reyes.National U will definitely be toe to toe with UAAP giants in women’s volleyball in the coming season.
In this season’s tournament, we have witnessed how the current crop of National U players transformed into volleyball juggernaut. Their faces are smiling and their body language no longer tells a hint of intimidation whoever is in the other side of the court. Their wins against FEU, UP and UE in the first round have propelled their confidence to unexpected heights. Here comes a team who in the previous years left the court crying for being embarrassed by the other teams. A lot of volleyball fans have noticed that the Lady Bulldogs are inching its way to the top slowly but surely. Who knows they might pull the plug and gate crash the party in the finals when everybody expects that it will be an all La Salle and UST affair.
For now, the Lady bulldogs are enjoying a new level of confidence and everybody is asking “Who let the dogs out?”